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This Is Where I Leave You - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
This Is Where I Leave You
Directing: B-
Acting: B
Writing: C
Cinematography: B
Editing: C+

This Is Where I Leave You is the kind of movie with a bunch of great actors in it that you can imagine having read the script and thinking, Well, it's work. Maybe not all the actors, though. Given her recent track record, it's a little easier to see Jane Fonda actually being into this crap.

That's maybe a little unfair, though perhaps not to a great degree. Hollywood doesn't have a whole lot of great parts to offer 77-year-old women, after all. Or, hell, 44-year-old women, for that matter -- the great Tina Fey plays one of her four children here, and she's charming as always.

In fact, there's an unusually large number of prominent female roles in this film: Nashville's great Connie Britton is the inappropriately older girlfriend of youngest son Phillip (Adam Driver); the lovely Rose Byrne is rekindled old flame for middle child -- and central character -- Judd (Jason Bateman); Kathryn Hahn is wife to eldest son Paul (House of Cards's Corey Stoll); Debra Monk is a neighbor and family friend who provides a last-act twist in the plot that's honestly kind of stupid. And although most of these women play paired parts to men, at least Tina Fey's Wendy has a husband who get short shrift, with only a couple of scenes that actually have lines.

And although a bunch of this movie is honestly kind of stupid, at least the stupidity is relatively subtle. So here I am defending a movie that is typical of Hollywood in every way: a concept with potential never realized because the script is stripped of any real bite for mainstream audiences; several truly talented actors who could do so much better; as always, all the best parts are shown in the trailer.

But, there is an audience for these movies. And there's something to be said for the talented cast -- even Jane Fonda (even though her character's boob job, added only for comic effect, is arguably the dumbest thing in the movie) -- who raise above the blandness, if not the baseness, of the material. The story still sweeps you along if you give in to it, especially if the actors are as easy to enjoy as these. This Is Where I Leave You does better at this than most movies with a large ensemble cast (I haven't even mentioned Timothy Olyphant as the old-flame neighbor with residual effects of a head injury, or Dax Shepard as Judd's boss, who gets caught fucking his wife).

All these four grown children are called back home in the wake of their father's death, and Mom insists that his dying wish, even though he wasn't a practicing Jew, was that they "sit shiva." This means they all have to stay at their childhood home for seven days, which predictably in turn brings all their repressed dysfunctions bubbling to the surface. These movies never bring out truly dark and realistic dysfunctions, like having a sex offender in the family. It still has to be light-hearted, you know; the problems have to be harmless enough for them all to learn the art of forgiveness.

For all its faults -- and there are many -- I got a few good laughs out of this movie. These people, lack of realism notwithstanding, are believable as a family. Maybe that's actually what makes these movies enjoyable in spite of themselves: they're like a more respectable form of soap opera or Jerry Springer, offering an escape from your own fuckups while being entertained by those of some other family.

(L-R) Tina Fey, Corey Stoll, Jane Fonda, Jason Bateman and Adam Driver are trapped in the mediocre Hollywood machine in THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU.

Overall: B-
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